AI: Bane or Boost for Marketers?

Morning enewsletters, TV, talk shows - interact in any setting and it is likely there is a conversation going on about artificial intelligence. AI. The next big thing. Some say it will be the greatest invention since sliced bread. Stephen Hawking says it will be our demise.

As a marketer, I’m leaning mostly towards sliced bread.

AI is not a futuristic vision. It is already completely embedded in our lives. Speech recognition software. Search. Siri. Alexa. And consider machine learning, and predictive uses of AI like Pandora or Netflix, telling us what we want to watch or listen to. Or Amazon making product recommendations based on our past purchases. 

Marketing Applications

The applications for AI in marketing are nearly boundless. Image recognition will soon allow consumers to "try on" everything from furniture and home accessories to shoes. 

Automating simple repetitive tasks will—at least in theory--free up valuable time.

Marketing automation will include personalized marketing emails based on customer preferences and behavior, hopefully leading to higher levels of engagement and conversion. Even at the very start of the marketing process, AI can complete website design in a fraction of the time and cost required to hire developers.

Customers can add their own images, text, and calls-to-action and the site is then built with AI. 

On social media, while AI allows users to hide ad content they don't like, customizing the user experience, it also gives insights to marketers. A win for all. 

Chatbots

Chatbots, also known as "conversational agents" are defined by Chatbot Magazine as a service powered by rules and sometimes artificial intelligence that you interact with via a chat interface. 

Chatbots are in wide use, without most of us ever realizing that that’s what we are engaging with. It’s kind of like robocalling--but with texts. Chatbots are most frequently used to provide better customer service, where formerly there was a human voice.

Some examples of chatbots include Google assistant, What’s App, Facebook Messenger, IoT. Chatbots are critically important to marketers because for the first time, people are using messenger apps more than they are using social networks. Chatbots in essence bring products and services to consumers where they are. So for marketers the question becomes simply “what problem can a chatbot solve?”

Future Impact of AI 

There are damaging aspects of AI of course—witness the impact of bots on Twitter and Facebook. And we have not even touched on data mining and how that will impact consumer experiences.

Andrew Steven writes in Forbes “We are still in the early days of AI's influence on consumer behavior, but the pace of chance moving forward will be rapid. One of the challenges on the consumer side is that most of us are still not fully comfortable handing over human agency, i.e., our need to make decisions, to machines. But we already do that, perhaps not noticing.”

“As consumer-facing AI-powered systems for things like product recommendations become more reliable and powerful, we'll all start to "outsource" more of our consumer search and choice set construction tasks to AI. Why spend hours searching for the right hotel for a vacation and compiling a list of alternatives from which to make a choice when a piece of software that knows ALL of your preferences can do it for you? For some consumers there's still pleasure in searching for and discovering products and services, but typically only limited to certain categories. Thus, consumer behavior itself will be increasingly "powered by" AI.”

 

Are you using AI applications in your marketing programs? I’d love to hear more about what’s working and what’s on the horizon. Let me know on Twitter: @CamBrown1  

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